Black Cinema Café

Fifth Third Bank wanted to establish a relationship with the african-american community, not just to sell accounts but to help them grow their business and influence. To show the bank's sincerity, we sponsored private screenings of films by black directors.

Role: Art Direction, Design, Illustration.
Creative Director: Mark Andersen
Production Artist: Erin Julin
Agency: OLSON

Screenprinted poster. Metallic ink on French Paper.

Letterpressed invite. Gold foil & metallic paper.



The team at OLSON paved the way for this project to be an Art Director's dream. I explored a wide variety of art from the culture and put together a large mood board.

And from there I created this color palette:

One of the challenges of this project is that we had no idea which movie, genre or even subject matter they would choose to screen at the event. This was both confusing & liberating. On one hand we only had to tackle the culture in general without a specific feel (since the festival is a separate brand from the film itself anyway). On the other hand, the whole culture is an intimidatingly large target.

This didn't slow us down one bit. Soon the excellent illustrator/designer Lori Benoy & I were cranking out many concepts. Here's a few of them:

This was going back to an old woodcut style and treating the American flag in rather dramatic ways. 

You'll see Lori's concepts are vintage-jazz inspired and great. Any one of these would have been a wonderful choice. 

This concept was intended to have local photos for each market. 

After presenting all these concepts, Fifth Third Bank's African American cultural consultant told us, "You've got soul." That still makes me smile. They chose the following Afro/Africa - Marionette design. 

After going through so many vintage posters from the African American culture I settled on an earthy tone. Here I'm using some French Paper swatches as my color guides. The typeface Nougat Extra Black has these great diagonal slabs on it. I had used it for the Chilibean Productions branding & it ended up leading me down the thought of tilting everything like vintage jazz posters. Honestly, not that unlike my work on the short film series Thicker Than Blood Turnipseed. Ultimately I used one of my favorite typefaces, Lubalin Graph and treated it in a similar way.

Here are some shots of the creation process:

Experimenting with trying to integrate Africa into the illustration while maintaining the marionette strings and some visual interest. The hard part here is not letting it get too cheesy.  

I also tried this alternative approach. 

I liked it. It almost stuck around but I thought the imagery was too obvious. Eventually I fell in love with this marionette idea - I feel as though it has some great ties to the sentiment of the culture. 

Here the invite concept is starting to come together. At first we thought we might do a more lemon-colored gold. 

And here are some shots of the final products which were screen printed and letterpressed - quite the accomplishment for a bank client. Prepress & production was done by the wonderful Erin Julin. She did a fantastic job - they turned out better than anticipated. 

The Wright Museum has a nice description of what BCC is all about: 

The Black Cinema Café is a national film screening and discussion series showcasing films written, produced or directed by persons of or that offer fresh perspectives and non stereotypical portrayal of the culture or lifestyles of people from African descent. 

The BCC brand is an original and unique concept as it features screenings of independent and studio films in a café or lounge like environment and provides an alternative to the typical movie going experience. Each event features a film screening, a networking component and a Q&A.

Black Cinema Café’s have been held in various venues and in the following markets: New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY, Washington, DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Oakland, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Houston and Newark, NJ.